Tuesday, August 22, 2017

ELA - In 50 Minutes a Day!

For my entire career, I've had a lengthy block of time to teach ELA. (Note: For my district, ELA encompasses all the English Language Arts Common Core Standards.) At most, I've had 106 minutes, and at least, 90 minutes. I've always felt as though I had ample time to cover everything AND to do some fun, creative work, as well. I never felt stressed or overwhelmed. In fact, it was the opposite. I became extremely comfortable in my gig and felt as though I was adequately preparing my kids for their standardized tests and making them not hate reading and writing at the same time.

Since I started the blog, I've heard from so many of you about how to manage time. Specifically, how can you incorporate everything you see me doing in my large block of ELA into the more standard-sized block of 45-50 minutes per day. Up until NOW I've only been able to speculate about what I think I might do. Give some good guesses as to what I think I'd take out of my program.

But, NOW has finally arrived.

This school year, my district is overhauling our schedule. That means my 106-minute block of ELA is going to be just 53-minutes long.

Speculating and guessing is over. Talking the talk is over. 

It's time to walk the walk. I have to fit what I did in 106 minutes into 50 minutes.

Okay, so when I had a 106-minute ELA block, I typically broke the period up like this:

So... what to leave in and what gets taken away?

First and foremost, it's important to mention that my entire building will be getting 30-minutes of Reader's Workshop every other day (I can also work my small group instruction into this time!). This will be built into our schedule. Obviously, I wish that it were EVERY DAY, but alas, I have no control over that. Thirty minutes every other day is the best we can do. So, if you remove that from my schedule above, that means I have to fit 85 minutes into 53 minutes.

Also, the "break" gets removed so that means that I now have to fit 80 minutes into 53 minutes.

Something else important to mention is that our report card is now going to give just one "ELA" grade as opposed to a "Reading" and "Writing" grade. This means that I have a bit more leeway with grades and do not have to have students write as many formal essays.

Okay... so here is what I'm thinking. I've only planned till winter break because I have no idea how this is actually going to work! Could be I'm revising by the end of September! Ha!!

Important to note:

  • First, rather than teach THREE FULL narrative units, I'm going to be combining them into one unit. So, I'll use the mentor texts and mini-lessons from my Narrative Writing: The Bundle, but instead of having kids produce one "Lessons Learned" essay, one "Memorable Places" essay, and one "Special Treasures" essay, they will DRAFT all three, but only PUBLISH one for me to grade (it will be their choice which to publish). With our report cards being the way they were before, it was important that kids wrote and published all three for me to grade, otherwise I would not have had enough grades in my WRITING grade book to give an accurate report card grade. Now, I'll have all their reading tests and quizzes to combine with that, so I'll have more than enough grades in the grade book. 
  • I've made some big changes to how I'm doing Article of the Week. This means kids will have a ton of expository writing under their belt by the time we test in May. So, I do not feel the need to do any expository writing until after Christmas break. Our focus will be on narrative (both fiction and nonfiction).
  • The Greek and Latin Roots program that I use is from Got to Teach and can be found here: . It's TOTALLY worth the price!!
  • I have not figured out how to work small groups into my writing time! This is giving me a ton of angst right now, but I don't think I can find the solution until I spend a month or so "living" this new schedule. One idea I have to make every Friday "FREE WRITE FRIDAY" and pull my groups during that time. That's only about 20 minutes once a week, though, so we will have to see if that's a possibility. Small group instruction is SO IMPORTANT in middle school! Once I find a good way to do it, I'll get back to you :)
  • Due to the changes that I've made to our Article of the Week routine, it's essential that I start the year with teaching Elements of Nonfiction
  • My plan is to cover the same number of short stories that I did last year, but to spend less time on them. Before, I had the luxury of working with the same story for at least a week. Now, I plan to spend no more than four days (or less!) on each story and to just focus on whatever skill we are working on at the time.
  • We will work more on incorporating compare and contrast into our literary analysis so I do not have to teach a full compare/contrast unit in writing.

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Okay, this is a start. I totally plan to do some VLOG posts about this topic because it's just too much to write! I think it will be a lot easier to record myself doing some actual reflecting on how this is going and changes that need to be made. It's much easier to express myself that way!

Anyway, hope this helps some of you! There is absolutely ZERO doubt that there are too many ELA standards to cover in a "normal" class period of 45-50 minutes (that seems to be average). Obviously, some things just will not get covered the way I think they need to be, but we are only human. We can only try our best and do what we can.

I'd love to hear how you structure your ELA period!! Please share any tips and tricks you have!


  1. How are you doing 7 Habits? I would love to do that with my 5th/6th grade class this year. Do you have something up at TPT?

  2. Awesome post!I love the idea.But you can also plan for next 5 year.Thank you for the valuable information on this tips.

  3. I came across your blog this summer and it has really helped me streamline my ELA program, plus I read some and still plan to read the books on the list of your recommendations. I currently struggle with the same issue of trying to figure out how to best teach reading and writing in only one period a day (Mine are 65 minutes each so about 10 minutes longer). I have decided to focus on writing and reading every other day, rather than trying to switch focuses half way through one period (I teach 7/8 and some struggle with transitions). Are you finding that this new model works? I just never feel like they are getting enough in the time I have allotted.

  4. I would love an update on how this new schedule is working for you. Time is a struggle. My school has a block schedule where I see my LA students EVERY OTHER day for 100 minutes. It is so difficult to get into any type of flow. Reading a short story can take up to three weeks (splitting the block with WW). Please update and let us know how the transition is going!! Would love any tips!! Thanks!

  5. I am with K. Smith, how has this worked out for you? I always struggle with time. Has the way you set up the beginning of your year worked for you? Do you plan to stay similar?

  6. Do you have the activity 7 habits of effective teenagers?

    1. I don't have an "activity" but I do read the book with my students :)

  7. Is this for sale on teachers pay teachers?